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Thread: Serum Creatinine and Powerlifters

  1. #1
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    Serum Creatinine and Powerlifters

    Hey all. Not looking for clinical diagnosis here or anything, but I'm curious who else has dealt with this. Ever since roughly around the time I started powerlifting (6 years ago), I get high serum creatinine levels in my blood tests (usually around 1.5 mg/DL, but it varies a bit). Of course, docs see that and 'OMG you're in stage I kidney failure'. Years ago I was sent to the nephrologist - did the clearance test (where you pee in a jug all day), and my clearance was fine. About six months ago, my sports medicine doc had me do the jug-of-pee test again. The clearance level was normal, again, but the serum and urine levels were high (which I think shouldn't mean anything if the clearance level is correct). But he wanted me to see a nephrologist.... I said no.

    I just had to switch to a new doc and got a high serum creatinine level and now she is insisting I see a nephrologist. So I'm going to go, AGAIN. BUN levels are normal...everything else is normal. I read once that bodybuilders tend to have creatinine levels around 1.3 (and powerlifting definitely breaks down a lot more muscle tissue, which is the source of creatinine in the blood) so I'd imagine powerlifters have even higher levels.

    Has anyone else had to deal with this crap? Any other powerlifters get high levels...and doc's that don't understand the relationship of creatinine levels with powerlifting?

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    Yep. I did this once after trying unsuccessfully to inform a new doctor them that it was not necessary. Walked in to the specialist's office a couple weeks later to get the results, he took one look at me (260 lbs at under 6 feet), asked if I lifted weights, I said yes, he said I was fine and could go home. We didn't even discuss any numbers from the test. He seemed pissed that the family doctor wasted both of our time by referring me to him and apologized for the inconvenience. I will never do it again.

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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Mine can be astronomically high between powerlifting and endurance training. It is extremely common for individuals engaged in heavy weight training (and who may actually consume higher amounts of creatine itself) to have high creatinine levels. I find it shocking that there are those in the medical community who are still not aware of this- the huge amount of money wasted on false positives and needless follow up is disgusting.
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    Yup. Imagine what my insurance has had to eat with those tests. But the docs do a pretty effective job freaking me out enough about it to keep me coming back for more!

    Just curious, what is "astronomically high" by your definition?
    Last edited by andhen2003; 05-07-2013 at 11:37 AM.

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    My buddy has previos kidney problems nothing to do with lifting, but he does lift, could that be bad for him if it increases the workload on his kidneys?

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    I think he'd have to ask his doc about that. The issue here is that the markers that blood tests use to judge kidney function aren't accurate for people with a lot of muscle mass.

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    Senior Member tom183's Avatar
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    Has anyone else had to deal with this crap? Any other powerlifters get high levels...and doc's that don't understand the relationship of creatinine levels with powerlifting?
    Not personally but known a few. I've learned:

    - Trends should be observed, not single test results.
    - Young, muscular males who lift weights and eat a lot of meat are expected to have elevated levels.
    - Most GPs don't seem to understand the above two points.

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    Senior Member 44pirate's Avatar
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    Also depending what chemistry analyzer that is used to measure your creatinine level, creatine will interfere with the result as to give a higher reading. I would be concerned if your level got over 2.0
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    Human medicine puts a great deal of emphasis on creatinine levels, which is very different from veterinary medicine. The reality is to diagnose kidney issues multiple values must be considered (for example BUN, creatinine, USG, 24 hour microalbumin, etc).

    The thing is creatinine levels are also related to muscle mass of the individual. The higher the muscle mass the higher the baseline creatinine levels should be. Unfortunately if a single value is used to make a diagnosis (ie looking at only creatinine) then that value will be skewed.

    The real kicker with creatinine use in human medicine is that its used to calculate GFR-- or kidney filtration rates. So if you have a person carrying high levels of muscle mass, with a high baseline creatinine, they will have a CALCULATED GFR much lower than normal. That's were things get really messed up in some cases because the baseline numbers for those calculations are off.

    The 24 hour microalbumin test isn't a big deal, if there is a doubt (ie roughly 2 times normal levels or higher) then just get the test done.

    I've seen veterinary patients with 5 times normal creatinine and they still were not in renal failure. They were just profoundly debilitated. So be careful to not over diagnose based on one laboratory value.
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    Senior Member Jonathan E's Avatar
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    Some physicians fail to realize that people in this area(especially those who supplement in creatine via diet) have 'higher' levels in response to their body working PROPERLY. No shit you'll have a higher count in your urine...your body is secreting the excess you don't always utilize.
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    Yes it's the serum creatinine that gets them freaked out because it is used to do an estimated GFR (eGFR). My current doc isn't overhyping it, but it is annoying to get sent to a nephrologist again. I know the nephrologist will take a look at my bloodwork and then at me (5'6" and 188 lbs) and send me home.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    You can find studies showing a correlation between lean muscle mass and creatinine levels. The more lean mass the higher the level. So, yes, many powerlifters are likely in the same boat as you.

    There is a better kidney function test for muscularly large individuals. I can't remember it off the top of my head.


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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    You can find studies showing a correlation between lean muscle mass and creatinine levels. The more lean mass the higher the level. So, yes, many powerlifters are likely in the same boat as you.

    There is a better kidney function test for muscularly large individuals. I can't remember it off the top of my head.
    Chris, I mentioned it above. it is the urine microalbumin (or 24 hour pee in a jug) test. That will give a much more accurate measure of early kidney dysfunction. Albumin is one of the first proteins to leak from the kidneys when they are damaged, so this test gives a much better idea of actual kidney function vs a calculated value.
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    yeah my urine microalbumin was 2.2 on a normal scale of 0.0-17.0

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JK1 View Post
    Chris, I mentioned it above. it is the urine microalbumin (or 24 hour pee in a jug) test. That will give a much more accurate measure of early kidney dysfunction. Albumin is one of the first proteins to leak from the kidneys when they are damaged, so this test gives a much better idea of actual kidney function vs a calculated value.
    Ok, but that is not the one I was thinking of.


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    Chris, I had heard about it too. Some kind of enzyme they measure but it's not in the standard blood/urine tests. Apparently the pee-in-a-jug for 24 hours gives a pretty accurate view tho, since you look at how much creatinine is in the blood and then how much of that got expelled into the urine over a period of time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by andhen2003 View Post
    Chris, I had heard about it too. Some kind of enzyme they measure but it's not in the standard blood/urine tests. Apparently the pee-in-a-jug for 24 hours gives a pretty accurate view tho, since you look at how much creatinine is in the blood and then how much of that got expelled into the urine over a period of time.
    The 24 hour creatinine clearance (Which measures creatinine in blood vs in the urine) test is different than the 24 hour microalbumin (which measures protein loss in the urine--the albumin) I posted above. The microalbumin test is essentially more sensitive for kidney function, but 24 hour creatinine clearance takes into account persons height and weight along with volume of urine produced, so it would be more acurrate for someone who is heavily muscled vs a calculated value.
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